About the same time I was telling him on the phone Tuesday morning that I wasn't headed back into the Japanese Alps for fear of getting snowed out for a third straight day while trying to cover an Olympic event on the slopes, Deseret News sports editor Chuck Gates suggested that I compile some observations on what it's like to cover the Olympics.
Maybe another day, I thought as I got dressed, ditching my recent ward-robe of snow pants, turtlenecks, sweaters, thermal socks and boots for a more comfortable ensemble of a mock-T, jeans, Nike socks and cross-trainers.After all, Tuesday was another snowy day in Nagano - this time at indoor venues and the Main Press Center instead of spending seven to eight hours daily traveling to and from Olympic slopes only to have the men's downhill (Sunday at Hakuba) and women's snow-boarding giant slalom (Monday at Shiga Kogen) be postponed due to extreme weather.
As I headed for the MPC entrance, Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star mentioned the women's snow-boarding GS was on and that he was catching a bus to the venue site, Shiga Kogen's Mount Yakebitai. I tag-ged along, ill-dressed for staying warm at a ski area and unsure the bus was the right one since Deseret News' photographer Kristan Jacobsen and I had caught a different bus at a different MPC point en route to Shiga Kogen the day before.
Even though the staffer at the stop assured us in broken English that it was the right route to Shiga Kogen, Mount Yakebitai and snowboarding, the fact that there were only three passengers on the 45-seat bus should have been a clue that something was wrong.
To make a long story - and a long ride - short, it was "the scenic route" through Shiga Kogen, passing by all the hotels and making stops at all the scheduled points even though nobody got on or off.
More than two hours later, we arrived at Mount Yakebitai - but far from the usual drop-off point for the race site, press area and finish line.
Language differences didn't help as we tried to explain to our driver and hostess that we weren't in the right media site, but they pointed us off toward the site. In the ensuing confusion, I realized that I had left my gloves on the bus.
While spectators were required to walk to the venue, the media could take a snowy five-minute ride on a rather flimsy chairlift. Adding to my discomfort were the snow, headwind, lack of gloves and the fact I was packing both a daypack and a laptop computer case on the lift.
About the same time I was boarding, the event's second and final run was beginning. I strained to hear names, hoping I wasn't going to miss any key American racers, including medal favorite Sondra Van Ert (see related story on page D2).
Finally arriving at the finish line, I learned that the four U.S. snow-boarders had taken tumbles, that Van Ert was the only one to finish and that she was more than eight seconds off the pace and out of medal contention. I also found that Mike and I had beaten our peers from the print media who had taken a direct route but were late arriving as well.
The cold and snow didn't bother my hands and feet as much as it hindered taking notes as we interviewed Van Ert and her coach, Peter Foley, after the race. Pens froze, ink smudged. U.S. Olympic Committee media staff member Frank Zang continued to write although nothing showed on his pad - he was hoping to be able to decipher the indentations later to complete his USOC press release.
Rather than retreat to the venue's press center, where other reporters were scrambling to write and file stories on deadline for their Tuesday morning editions, I opted to find a bus back to the MPC - a direct-route bus, mind you.
But one final adventure lurked as I climbed up and down the dozen flights of metal stairs through temporary stands, scaffolding and staff offices. I had the misfortune of being behind a Nagano Games staffer - more specifically, a gatekeeper from the race, from whose pack was protruding a 30-inch-long ice auger. The tip frequently swung back at my face, chest and other body parts as he lumbered up and down the stairs in front of me.
Yeah, this Winter Olympics gig is glamorous. And either I've gleaned one of those once-in-a-lifetime memories, or I've concocted one fantastic fib for the Deseret News to spring for a new pair of gloves.